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America the debatable

A patriotic tradition is being challenged as Goshen College in Indiana decides to play “America the Beautiful” instead of “The Star Spangled Banner” before all sporting events.

The school, according to WBST-TV, decided that the words to “America the Beautiful” better suited its Mennonite, pacifist standards.

Apparently, this is not the first time the issue has come up. According to the ABC News article, “Unofficial National Anthem: America the Beautiful,” people tend to turn to “America the Beautiful” instead of “The Star Spangled Banner” in times of crisis and celebration.

I have never really thought about playing the national anthem as a debatable issue. Ever since elementary school, it has been the norm to sing it at school assemblies and special events. I’ve just always gotten up and sang along without really thinking about the lyrics or the context in which the song was written; it was just something you did.

The Goshen College students’ and faculty’s strong opinions made me stop and study our nation’s song. If you read the lyrics through a certain perspective, they do seem fairly violent-natured. Two lyrics that illustrate Goshen’s point are “the rocket’s red glare” and “the bombs bursting in air.” If you read these lyrics out of context, the song does seem violent and, therefore, is a poor representation of our country.

Francis Scott Key wrote the poem “Defense of Fort McHenry” or better known as the lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner,” during the War of 1812; however, the specific scene that inspired him captures what our nation is all about. As the brutal battle against the British calmed and ceased, the Americans saw a flag flicker in the distance. When the dawn broke, the tired soldiers were captivated as the mighty American flag stood proudly in victory. This glorious sight awestruck Key, and the song was born.

The song represents patriotism. It represents the pride we should all have to be an American. It represents the flag that allows us to live as freely as we do, the flag that so many have died to protect.

However, “America the Beautiful,” by Katharine Lee Bates, glorifies the nation as well. It shows the beauty of our nation. It shows the hope and wonder the nation stands for—the nation that so many have died to protect.

Both songs give a different feeling. Each shows a different aspect of our nation.

It is tradition to play the anthem before special events. It was designated to best represent our nation and call upon our patriotism. But, just because it is tradition does not mean a school should have to play it if it does not believe in it. The whole point of singing the anthem is to feel pride and love for your country. There is no point in singing it if all you can think about is the negative, violent undertones. You should sing what best represents your American pride, and if that’s “America the Beautiful,” then “America! America!; God shed His grace on thee; And crown thy good with brotherhood; From sea to shining sea!”

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